The Domain of Steven Pinnacle of Paperless Perfection


Grumpy Cat

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Sophia's Grumpy Cat costume was a big hit. Despite our reservations, people had no trouble figuring out what she was dressed up as, and that they wanted a picture with her. One of the best perks was that it allowed for effortless pairing with other cosplayers!



I've made it a point to get in this pose with Bayonetta every time I see her at a convention. I went for the hat trick this year.

PAX East 2010


PAX Prime 2011


PAX Prime 2012


As always, I get a smirk from the cosplayer and laughs from the crowd. Typically I also end up staying a few extra seconds because other people are taking a picture as well. Afterward I'll get up, have a laugh with the surprised but delighted cosplayer, and we'll go our own ways.

As usual, once I get up from this picture I start thanking the cosplayer, and I explain that I've made it something of a tradition to do this with every Bayonetta I meet.

She nods and replies, "Right, I remember you from last year."

I don't reply, and have absolutely no idea what to say or think.

"Yea, the only guys that ask for unusual poses are you and this one other guy who wanted me to roundhouse kick him in the jaw."

I again have no idea how to feel, this time about being lumped together with Mr. Jaw Kick. We head off, and I wonder if we'll run into one another at next year's convention. Maybe if we do, I won't even need to ask - we'll simply smile, pose, then resolve to meet each other again on the show floor.

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Convention’s Creed

Booths at PAX range from a mere table to an arena larger than some NYC studios, and typically the bigger booths have the bigger lines. While walking around the convention, I spotted that the booth for Assassin's Creed 3, a big budget game whose line was normally very long, had experienced a momentary lull in its line. I quickly swooped in while it was relatively short.

Megan: "So what are we doing here?"
Me: "I don't really know, but it's probably cool."

I might not have known the nature of what was being exhibited, but I did know that the booth of Ubisoft's premier series was bound to be extravagant. As we moved into the booth, we were treated to a sort of museum tapestry along the walls, a series of Assassin's Creed 3 concept artwork matched up against interesting historical trivia about the setting. Asking some people next to us, I find out that the line is feeding into a small theater where we get to watch exclusive AC3 footage.

We're practically at the door to the theater when the booth girl stops the line. "The theater is at capacity," she says, "it'll be about ten minutes till the next showing."

I exchange glances with my friends. They don't care about the game, but they'll stick around if I wanted to see the video. We're already at the head of the line, but I don't care about the game either, and I don't want to subject them to waiting around for a video about a game that they don't care about.

And that's when I spot it. At the booth girl's feet is a box full of inflatable hatchets, modeled after a weapon in the game. I'd seen them being given out to people that had braved the line. To hell with the video - it was the swag that I was interested in.

"Excuse me, my friends and I need to head out and can't stick around for the video. Do you think I could get one of those hatchets before I go?"

An odd question. Usually the questions booth girls get are more along the line of:

"Where does the line start?"
"At the other end of the hall. I'll see you again when you get back here in two hours."

Or, "Did you help make this game?"
"No, a staffing agency just hired me to stand here because folk psychology dictates that you'll be favorably inclined toward the game if your experience involves interacting, however so slightly, with an attractive woman."

Or sometimes, "Can I get an extra hatchet for my friend/brother/bedridden foster child that I adopted while I was doing missionary work in a third-world country oh why am I here instead of caring for him well uhh I mean oh yea it's his dream to get an inflatable hatchet did I mention I adopted two children so can I get an extra two instead?"
"No, one per person."

But I wasn't trying to score extra, just one. And this time, the woman was up for playing ball.

"Sure, you can have a hatchet...if you answer a trivia question about the game."

Uh oh. Despite all the hype, I've only heard of this game maybe once in passing.

"Ready? [In my head: No!!!!] What is the name of the main character?"

Shit! This is a gimme, and yet I totally flunk it. My friends are gearing up to head out.

"Okay, one more chance. When does this game take place?"

With no hesitation, I reply, "Colonial America."

"That's right, the American Revolution! Here's your hatchet."

Jaws drop to the floor. How the hell do I know that when I don't even know the main character's name?

Elementary, my dear Watson. The wallpaper of the booth had displayed trivia about the setting of the game: muskets, the American flag, massed military formations, rudimentary medical treatment involving bonesaws, and other tidbits that all pointed toward colonial America (Civil War might also have been a contender, but massed ranks of musketmen had fallen out of favor by that time).

But perhaps even more surprising was that the booth girl wasn't finished. She turned to Sophia and asked, "Now I've got a question for you. What are you dressed as?"

We all look at Sophia's dress. Most people think she's a princess from some game, and she's become reluctant to properly explain that it is actually lolita fashion, since the word 'lolita' has an unrelated stigma in America. Sophia replies, "Well, it's a kind of extreme Japanese fashion style..."

"Oh, you mean lolita?" Our jaws continue to remain plastered to the floor.


"You look great! You can have a hatchet too."

We don't question why she's giving us a hatchet for answering her own question correctly. We leave the booth moments later, with two inflatable hatchets and a conversation more memorable than anything they would have shown in that gameplay video.

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First time being grounded

I planned to take three days off works so that I could attend PAX Prime, the granddaddy of gaming conventions available to the public. Fly in Thursday, enjoy the three-day con, hop on a Sunday night red-eye and spend Monday recovering.

But it's Wednesday, and I'm still here in Seattle. In fact I'm going to be here straight through the week. JetBlue called on Friday to let me know that my flight had been cancelled, because the airports were being shut down due to the crazy weather smashing through the northeast. I call to reschedule my flight, and find that the next one available is another red-eye...the following Friday.

And so that's why I'm booked into another hotel for four days longer than I planned. It's an impromptu extended vacation, an unexpected urban adventure. I'm enjoying the free buses and the rollercoaster-esque monorail, and I'm getting acclimated to the general layout of the city. My hotel is 10 minutes from the Space Needle, definitely in a more residential area but still connected to the veins of public transportation sprouting from the city.

I have no laptop for this trip, but that's not such a bad thing. It makes me get on the computer mostly just to reconnect with the outside world for short bursts. Most of my time is spent sightseeing, liberally padded with vegging out in front of cable TV. There's just something enthralling about watching Zimmerman eat strange things on the Travel Channel, people sell or create oddities on Discovery, and celebrity chefs get way too excited on Food Network.

It's a refreshing palate cleanser from the routine of work and whirlwind of PAX, but I'm looking forward to returning to the east coast to see my friends, my family, and last but not least, my gaming computer. Deus Ex isn't going to play itself, you know.

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I definitely don’t have thick enough skin for her job

This story is also an entry into Sally's contest for the upcoming Halo game. If you've got one of your own, hop over to her video and leave a comment to enter!

I got a call yesterday from an unknown number. I pick it up, and am immediately greeted with the strangest voice I've ever heard, barring Chocolate Rain. The lady on the other end starts speaking with an almost artificially clear, precise voice. It's like the recorded voice that you'd hear on a subway train announcing your stop. It's so deliberate and pitch perfect that I actually do think it's a recording, until she says my name.

"Hi, I'm calling from Staples for a Mr. Steven Li."

I had recently purchased something from Staples, but I was still surprised that they were calling me. Maybe I finally used stacked one too many coupons and they were blacklisting me from their stores. I figure I might as well get on with it.


"I'm calling to ask you a few questions about the quality of your last visit. Is now a good time to talk?"

Ah, a survey solicitor. Now you have to understand, my parents instilled in me a strict sense of politeness. Solicitors are annoying but they're still people, and they're simply doing their job. I wouldn't hang up on one, even though she called me while I was busy at work. Instead I try to deflect her, hoping she'll take a hint.

"Sorry, now's not a good time."

"Alright, could we schedule a time that would work better for you?"

I meekly murmur, " it possible to say no?"

A beat. My face is flushing red. Then she bursts into laughter.

"Of course sir, you can say whatever you like! It's a free country!" She laughs some more, and it washes over me like a cool breeze. I'm thankful that she sees the humor in this; that I'm just like every other guy that wants to dodge a solicitor, but I'm simply too polite to verbally muscle her around and hang up. Her voice takes on a softer, gentler tone, like she's speaking to a child who wants one more story before bedtime. "Have a nice day, sir."

Phew. "You too."

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Bidders bartering for Bananas

Continuing the trend of my quirky eBay listings comes yet another.

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Bananas who?
Knock knock.
Who's there?

Bananas who?
Knock knock.
Who's there?
Orange who?
Orange you glad I didn't say bananas?

No, actually, because you were probably hoping I would say bananas and present you with the King Mukla card, with an scratchable code to unlock Bananas the Ape. Using this code gets you a Banana Charm, which is not only good as a little splash of yellow on your otherwise drab and dreary mud-stained adventuring wardrobe but also summons an adorable ape vanity pet.

No, this is not a monkey. Don't expect Bananas to do any coding for you.

No, but at least you get an angelic ape to blindly follow you around as you take on monsters a hundred times its size. Any lesser being would quake and tremble at the thought, but Bananas?

No, this ape's allegiance is ardent, for he is especially thankful that you were able to procure him!

No small feat, since this card is especially rare. You'll only find one of these cards in about 242 booster packs, which means that on average this card would cost you $400 to farm! Chances are just barely better if you're opening up random Landro's Pet Boxes to find one, as there's just barely a .5% chance in each box. At 2,000 UDE points per box, that means you' going to be looking at two million UDE points spent to nab this attractive ape.

No, save your money by bidding on this auction. To top it off, I'll even toss in a protective sleeve for the card so that you can proudly show it off. This is one card that makes a statement, and that statement is "I support animals and wildlife, especially when those animals get me in-game items for World of Warcraft and happen to trample smaller allies when they're played in the trading card game."

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Bear with my puns

My penchant for unnecessarily long product descriptions started when I hawked my wares in WoW, but recently I've found that the tendency carries over to my eBay listings as well.

Fantasy games are supposed to be fantastical. World of Warcraft lets you ride around on huge bats, mechanical striders and more, but you never get a sense of accomplishment because they're mythical creatures that you've never seen before. Who knows what huge bats are like? Maybe they're actually really tame and love being ridden. Where's the challenge in that?

What you need is a mount that you understand, a mount that you can proudly show off and say "Yea, I caught this the other day. Oh, those giant claws and teeth? No big deal, I was able to wrestle him down with my BEAR hands! Oh ho ho ho!"

If you haven't guessed already, what I'm offering you is The Red Bearon, a rare card from the World of Warcraft TCG's Drums of War set. Now when I say rare, I mean rare: the chance you'll find one of these bad boys is just 1 in every 363 booster packs you open. Let me do the math for you: if you were to try to farm this, it would cost you over $900.

So save your real-life gold and plop down a bid on this real-life card. Not only do you get a sweet card for the TCG game (come on, an armored bear?) but you also get an unlock code for an in-game bear mount. Whether you're gnome, blood elf or orc, you're bound to look badass when friends and foes alike see you strolling down the thoroughfare with this bad boy: .

"But why would I bother this this mount," you say, "when I already have one I love?" Well bucko, if you're already happily mounted then I don't know why you're looking on eBay for other mounts but I'm not here to judge. I will say that if you personally don't care about riding this sick bear around Azeroth, then maybe you know a friend who does. A friend with lots of gold burning a hole in his pocket. A friend you could sell this mount to, because the item this card gives you is bind-on-use. Sell it at your leisure, or just dangle it above your enemies' heads as they grovel at your feet and offer you exorbitant amounts of gold for it!

Of course, if you're already rolling in dough, you can still lavishly flaunt it without opening a trade window. Using this mount will count towards the Mountain 'o Mounts achievement, an easy way of saying "Yes, I do have a veritable mountain of bears. Don't you?"

Bid on this now and you'll be entered in the running for The Red Bearon card in perfect condition, unlock code intact and unscratched. To preserve its integrity on the long journey to your mailbox, I'll even toss in a protective sleeve (think of it like bear armor for your armored bear).

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New comment system

Yoli told me a while ago about a plugin called Brian's Threaded/Nested Comments that modifies WordPress's comment system to give it the nested feature found in places like Livejournal and Deadjournal. As people sometimes actively engage in actual conversations with me through comments, I jury-rigged a solution that looks awfully cool and impressive. However, for holding a conversation past my response, or for very long replies, it's utter crap. So here goes nothing. Let's try out the new system!

Edit: Comment system broken. Fixing.

Edit: Fixed. Up and running. Removed the name/email requirement, but please at least put your name.

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All is quiet on the eastern front (or is it the western front?). My job is going smoothly, and there's just enough going on to stave away ennui.

July 22nd and 23rd (along with an hour of the 24th) were spent at the Rochester Institute of Technology for their College and Careers program. It was just as much of a career exploration program as it was a RIT promotion program, but even so, the bitches made us pay. Just as expensive was the transportation, because I was unable to procure a ride. The person who originally introduced the program to me was bringing someone who had a ride, but both dropped out, so the only person who attended it with me was my girlfriend. Not that that was a problem. In fact, there are few I would have been content with taking her place on the seven hour bus ride that stretched to eight hours for random reasons. The 7:30 AM departure, for which we got up early and went to Port Authority, was awfully packed; in fact we were delayed because we picked up a surplus passenger at the Syracuse station and had to reassure his ass that he wouldn't be stranded. The trip otherwise went by uneventfully, and even though it was cold inside the bus, my mind was distracted with the lore and illustrations of the various clans of kine. I particularly liked the clan pictures for the Malkavians and the Ravnos.

Actually, regaling you with the details of the trip itself would be too boring. Let's end on that vampiric note and get to the good stuff. We arrived late, and missed most of the opening ceremony. In fact, we didn't see any of the opening ceremony. In fact, we didn't see a single damn ceremony at all, and that's good, because I probably would have puked at the cheesiness. "RIT is good, blah blah. Go to RIT, blah blah. Anyone who's still awake and doesn't want me to steal your firstborn, raise your hand. Great, those hundred bundles of love should make our biology students very happy."

Instead, we skipped the opening ceremony and realized just how hot rooms without AC can get. Every other building other than the dorms, though, had AC, and often plenty of it. We spent most of our time in the Alumni Center, where they opened up the pool tables for our use, gave us free drinks, set up gambling tables, tuned the big screen tv to sports, and gave out free tokens for the arcade games. I was almost as enamored with the student center in RIT as I was with the student center in MIT, though the center in RIT was actually much better. There were at least six pool tables, an air hockey table, three cheap themed pinball machines, a puzzle game, a decent fighting game, a sniper game, an accuracy hunting game, and a DDR machine. They know what we like. We didn't want to camp out a pool table, but we did get a shot at the air hockey table without waiting long. I scored the most points, if you count goals on myself. The accuracy hunting game was surprisingly engaging, though obviously set in the future, as only bio-augmented animals could survive more than two shots in the head from a rifle. The DDR machine was equally entertaining, and though I was still rusty, my partner was awfully polite even when asking me to play on light for a song he wasn't sure he could keep me alive on.

So yes, the first day was a dead day. I saw a lot of my girlfriend, saw barely anything of my roomate, and marveled at the spacious shower stalls and very cool rooms. The next day was when all four classes took place sequentially. I took computer science, information technology, software engineering, and psychology courses.

Computer science was very informative because it highlighted the differences between the different fields regarding computers. I learned about computer engineering, computer science, and information technology. I had an inkling about what information technology was, but I've now cemented it as a viable major for me along with computer science. We also got to watch the professor's downloaded video of cats doing crazy things.

Information technology was fun because it was hands-on and we got to see their great facilities. We set up WinVNC (a free remote desktop program), set up shared folders, and search the building for wireless hotspots. While my partner was very cool, we also had a token annoying know-it-all. Still, it didn't take much effort to focus less on him and more on the massive workstations that sysadmins to-be were given, and the servers that were assigned to teams so they could attack each other. Hot, in the massively-ACed room kind of way.

Software engineering actually made me fall asleep, but turned out to be very engaging. We played with Robocode, an IBM-developed program that lets you code the behavior for a robot to kill other robots, and entered all our robots in a room-wide competition. Mine, while admirable against a single opponent, quickly died in melees. The most amusing robot was the wussy, who simply ran around in a circle while other robots shot at it and often missed, making them waste their energy and perish. I picked up at least two wins, but only ended up somewhere in the middle of the rankings.

Psychology was a dead session. We were seated at Macintosh computers and allowed free reign, with orders to play around with PsychSim. Theoretically, this could have been fun, if PsychSim wasn't dreadfully dry and boring. Instead, I checked my email and my Nationstates account and left early.

Departure was uneventful barring a dreary wait for a taxi to the bus station. The bus ride back was much less crowded, and it was at or under half capacity when we left Syracuse to go to New York. I enjoyed the dark, once she finished reading a good chunk of Harry Potter we went seat hopping. We learned from our past mistake and took a blanket from our luggage so that we wouldn't be as cold. That and body heat did the trick. We got back an hour late again, which meant that we arrived around 1 AM to the concealed regret of my parents for having come early. Still, it was better than having to drive fourteen hours twice, no?

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A penny for your thoughts, a comment for your dreams

Last night's dream was one of my craziest. Crazier than the lucid dream where I was too afraid that I was sleepwalking to be curious and try to jump out the window and see what happens.

I was one of those Left Behind. It was probably my simple agnosticism that kept me from going through the gates of heaven. Now, my dream was a semi-futuristic age, so instead of the gates being gigantic, pristine swing gates, they were white automatic doors. They had the look of a double-pane window, with the top curved so that it could form an arch, though there was an consuming blackness that gradually increased a foot from the gate, so you could not see far in. The entryway, however, which was a tunnel around two feet smaller on each side than the room it was connected to, was brightly lit.

It seemed to be some kind of time of reckoning. Some of my friends, family, and I walked to the gate, but the gate would not open. I knew it was because of me. The gate wouldn't open because I was there. I knew that I could not enter, but they could. So I let them enter by walking away. I didn't look back, and shook my head in regret as I left the entryway and heard the door open and close.

But not all of them had gone. One had not gone through the doorway, and instead stood with me. A female, who I knew was important to me, but who did not acknowledge me as a lover. All the same, I was glad she was there with me. There were others, though. I recognized many as Stuy students, though I cannot recall their faces. We were all in it together. We were all stuck there.

And then something happened, something that makes even less sense than the things I've said already, simply because I can't explain it: the people started turning against each other. It wasn't by killing each other, though; they turned against each other by throwing food. There just happened to be plenty of food lying around, in lots of indistinguishable but definitely real forms. One started to chuck food at people, and those he hit would pause for a while only to turn just as evil has him and throw foot at other people as well. My friend by my side was becoming increasingly agitated and scared, so I shielded her with my body, ready to fend off any projectiles. As I dodged one that was aimed at my head, I also noticed that a piece of food was thrown from behind me. I turned around only to find that my female companion had been turned already, and had food in her hand ready to throw at me. I evaded her food and ducked behind a counter.

It was behind that counter that I found a weapon I knew I could use against these people. A bowl of thick, sticky tuna fish with a large wooden spoon. I took up my weapon, and marching toward the closet enemy, I dug out a big spoonful and crammed it in his face. He twitched for a while, as if I was electrocuting him but at the same time freezing him in place, and then dropped to the floor as I gave him a shove. Then he got up, and looked perfectly normal, albeit confused as to why people were throwing food at one another. I continued on my rampage of redemption throughout the room, as people took up arms with me and purged the remaining evil. And we succeeded.

After that, though, there was silence. We had been left on Earth to fend for ourselves, and we certainly had the numbers to, but it was still an enormous task. I then took charge, ordering people to guard the only other door with the tuna fish we already had and some people to find anything else they could in the room. People scurried around for a little while before we heard a knock on the door that was being guarded. We opened it cautiously, with tuna fish in our hands, to find the only person I recognized in the whole dream, Caroline. She came as an emissary from a neighboring room, peace treaty and all. I considered poking her in the head with some tuna fish to make sure she wasn't turned, but I decided against it, and took the peace treaty to sign. Before I could though, I heard a commotion in the hall. Other neighboring rooms had filed out and stood in a large common space, and I took a look. It wasn't long before I felt an ominous presence, and our real enemy materialized himself.

It was a jedi. A green lightsaber-wielding jedi. I knew he was going to kill us all, and apparently someone else thought so as well, so one person stepped up to fight him. It was strange; while I was seeing the jedi from my spot by the door, I also saw the jedi from the eyes of the challenger. I saw his green lightsaber swing down, and the challenger barely catch the saber arm and throw it back. The fighter then picked up some kind of weapon, and did something that I can't pinpoint. Whatever he did, my view of the jedi through his eyes changed; his lightsaber was no longer a green beam of focused light, but a sword, a physical manifestation. And the fighter shattered that sword, a clean diagonal swipe that halved the blade.

Then hell broke loose. There were energies swirling everywhere, and a sound akin to the time rewind of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. We started moving backwards in time, but not through what had already happened. No, by breaking the lightsaber we altered time itself. We moved backwards into our rooms, but a few people actually moved backwards into dental chairs that were located near the bright windows of the central hall. Dental chairs that had straps at the wrist for holding a person down. They walked backwards into the chairs, and the straps locked themselves around the wrists, and the faces of those sitting writhed in agony. This I saw from the viewpoint of the fighter who shattered the lightsaber, who had remained unaffected by the time shift.

I did not see what was being done to the people in the chairs, because it was then that I woke up.

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